Barbara Roberts Mason started her long career of helping others as a speech therapist with the Lansing Community School District. At that time, she was the first and only speech therapist that worked exclusively with handicapped and disabled children. She served more than 30 schools.
When asked what inspired her to get into this line of work, Mason replied, “empathy.” As someone who has overcome a speech impediment, she recognized the impact of her own speech therapist as a child and the importance of being able to communicate well.
“I wanted [my students] to feel safe and secure in themselves,” Mason said.
With a knowledge base about the educational system and a drive to improve the lives of children, in 1971 Mason began working for the Michigan Educational Association (MEA). She worked for the MEA for more than 30 years, first as an executive director for several school districts and later as an arbitration specialist and a professional development specialist.
In 1974, Mason was elected to the State Board of Education, where she served for 24 years, pushing for equal opportunities for students across the state, especially emphasizing strong basic elementary education.
“I always believed children could reach their potential if we gave them the tools with which to reach that potential,” said Mason. “I believe young people need to imagine and dream, and dream big. They need to know that the grass goes beyond that which they can see, touch and feel.”
Mason’s action-oriented nature has taken her beyond the educational system and into the Democratic Party. She became the senior policy advisor for vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro (the first woman to run for vice president for a major political party) in 1984, and gave the speech at her nomination ceremony. She lists this, along with founding the Black Child and Family Institute, her involvement with the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission and her children being among the first African American students bussed to a desegregated Lansing school, among some of her greatest accomplishments.
Now, after years of traveling the world to improve the education and lives of children, and striving for equal opportunity for students everywhere, Mason has retired and runs her own consulting business, BRM & Associates.
“The best thing about being retired is you can do what you want to do … things that are beneficial for other people,”
Mason strongly believes in lending a helping hand.
“If everyone would reach out and give help to someone in need, we’d all be better off.”